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Emotional Intelligence

Any definition of intelligence generally involves three elements:

  • the ability to profit from experience
  • the ability to learn new information
  • the ability to adjust to new situations.

In his work on emotional intelligence, Daniel Golman defines the hallmarks of emotional maturity and a trained emotional intelligence as:

  • being able to read the feelings of others
  • handling relationships with the least possible friction
  • being able to control impulses
  • getting angry only when that is an optimal and appropriate behavior.

Emotional intelligences can be learned.  We learn the basics as children.  As adults, most of us feel refining our emotional responses is a life-long task.  The process of bringing our response into an optimal configuration for any situation begins with insight,

Insight into oneself is described as an intrapersonal intelligence.  It is the capacity to form an accurate, veridical model of oneself and to be able to use that model to operate effectively in life.  We achieve this through” self-monitoring”.  The purpose of self-monitoring is simply to observe one’s behavior, not to modify or condemn it. Understanding your own motivations and processes is necessary before extending that awareness to the motivation and behaviors of others.

Self-monitoring is the predecessor to interpersonal (between self and others) intelligence.  This is defined as the ability to understand other people and what motivates them, how they work, and how to work cooperatively.

Eastern religions and Western scientists agree on the use of self-monitoring techniques as a way to distance oneself from emotions, beginning to master and regulate our response to events.  Self-control begins with realizing that an emotional response is frequently predictable from context.  Prediction allows a moment to organize a response.  Intensity of response can be moderated in many different ways.  Planning and practicing to do something different when presented with a familiar challenge to one’s self-control, such as anxiety or anger, is one way to prevent an emotional hi-jacking.  We aim to become aware of our mood, our thoughts about our mood, and make small changes in our response to stimuli.  In session 4 we will continue to work on emotional intelligence by exploring one of the most difficult emotions to modify and moderate: anger.

People with a high level of emotional intelligence often seek to integrate the interests of all parties.  Entering relationships or negotiations without a clear perception of the interests of  participants operate at a severe disadvantage.  As the Win/Win game illustrates, communication is key to satisfaction in cooperative negotiations. In real life, when people are not allowed to win or feel control over outcomes, they often become apathetic.  The “learned helplessness” research of Martin Seligman (1975, 1991, 1998) shows what happens when animals and people experience life events as both uncontrollable and unfavorable.   They learn to feel helpless and resigned.  Depressed and institutionalized people fall into this category; losing the power to act when they feel that nothing they can do would be effective.

When management appears to be capricious and/or rigidly unfeeling it becomes difficult to sustain a sense of personal control and competence. People become apathetic in their job performance.  It is difficult for managers to manage widespread indifference, particularly if they are perceived as part of the problem. Workers given leeway in carrying out tasks and making decisions experienced improved morale (Miller & Monge. 1986).  Restoring a sense of control to people increases their sense of self-efficacy.  To increase self-efficacy you do not need to persuade yourself or others that they can be efficacious, nor praise or puff up their ego. You simply need to set challenging, yet realistic tasks, and successfully complete them.  To do one’s best and to achieve is to feel confident, and yes, empowered (Ozer and Bandura, 1990).



Goals do not exert simple and direct effects on human behavior.  If we define goals as all objects and events toward which a person reacts with positive or negative emotion-then it’s clear that not all goals necessarily exert much influence.  However, people do become committed to pursuing goals, and then they are very likely to act to attain them.  This goal attainment process is characterized by thought and emotion centering on the desired outcome.  Until committed, there are a universe of goals out there- think of a person looking for a mate- there are many possible, a few probable, and finally, only one person, and a commitment.  Unless that person turns out to be disappointing, a committed person does not pay much attention to the fields of probables still out there.  The bulk of the work towards a goal, say, of having a long-term relationship, comes after the commitment.  Which suggests that of the two phases, commitments are more important than goals.  You can have many goals, but few commitments.

So, what is commitment?  How can we predict it?  There are some regularities to the process of forming a commitment:

1/ Given a choice of alternative goals to strive for, people tend to prefer those that they value, and that they believe that they have a reasonable chance to obtain.  For example, a woman is likely to seek a career to which she is to some extent attracted, and in which she has a fair chance of succeeding.  If you were advising this woman as to the probable success of her efforts, you would have to know three things:

The value of each alternative career to this woman.

The woman’s beliefs about her chances of success, and the price in time, effort, and resources the person believes she would have to pay for each alternative.

An incentive becomes a goal after the person commits to it.  For instance, I may regard a vacation to South America as an attractive incentive, but until it becomes a goal, I will not be checking the papers for package deals, calling travel agents, and buying tour guides to the pyramids.  After it becomes a goal, a commitment to the goal starts to alert me to all the ways that the trip affects my life.  For instance, I pay attention to my exercise routine because I wish to climb a volcano.  I forsake a Starbuck’s latte habit after calculating the savings- money that can go to the trip fund.  If I go to a party and someone mentions Peru, I go over and make inquiries.  In this way, we find that commitment focuses us on anything pertaining to our goal.  People can become obsessed with their goals to the point of neglecting other important items.

As evolved organisms, we do come equipped to react to specific situations with some specific kinds of behavior that need not be learned.  It is a vague schematic but it runs something like this: for instance when you find your efforts to do something are blocked (the situation), the individual tends to repeat the behavior with greater force.  Somewhat the “if it doesn’t go in, get a bigger hammer” approach.  We see it when a tourist tries to communicate in a foreign language; saying it louder does NOT make meaning more clear.

Joy and satisfaction are associated with achieving a goal or mastering a challenge.  This response is expected, as are characteristic physiological changes, facial expressions, and postures.  Who can mistake the emotion expressed by a football player making a touchdown?  Or that of a new father as he lifts his child? We use emotion to interpret the value of the goal or incentive.  If it elicits strong emotional affect, it is more likely to have high value and to be committed to.  Let me repeat that: we value objects, people, and events if they arouse emotion.  Even things that normally evoke little emotional response are treated as important if they lead to a valued goal.

Commitment and depression: what if you blocked from achieving a valued goal?  Many people experience depression as part of a normal adaptive process of personal reorganization following a significant defeat.  Workers in jobs where they have little sense of control and less satisfaction have something in common with people dissolving a marital bond.  When people are unhappy with their situation, and feel trapped in it, they experience emotions, thoughts, and behaviors characteristic of alienation.  They believe themselves powerless with respect to the job or marriage feel themselves unable to produce behaviors expected of them, and cannot seem to resolve their problems.  Escape into depression and alienation produces the following patterns: they cease to put effort into the seemingly insoluble problems, they seem faceless, without energy or enthusiasm, or any positive emotional response and are bored and easily distractible.  At this point, work enrichment or marital therapy are not likely to produce good results.  The person can choose to live at a very low level of joy, seek satisfaction elsewhere, leave the situation entirely, directly confront their own feelings, or commit suicide.  Or they can directly affect mood through drugs- a tempory solution that may become permanent.

Why are goals and commitments so important?  Because when people say their lives are meaningful, they generally mean that they are emotionally involved with important relationships, and actively involved in the pursuit of goals with the power to command strong affective responses.  We need to feel strongly to live fully.

Free Will

When people make choice, they usually feel as if they re the agents of that choice.  Human freedom can be thought of as occurring on at least three levels.  First and lowest, we may be acting independently of momentary drives and whatever stimulus is surrounding them.  For instance, I am hungry, and am surrounded by noisy people in a café as I write this.  I am ignoring the drive and distracting stimuli to meet a deadline in writing.

The second level of freedom is to act independently of childhood or cultural conditioning.  If you were raised a Catholic Democrat and in middle age choose to be a Green Party Buddhist, you are probably aware of more degrees of choice in your voting and religious behaviors.

The third level of freedom is the much-discussed freedom from “natural law”.  .  If everything is lawful, then it is all predetermined.  This belief runs from early philosophers to the present belief that genes may control up to 50% of a given expression of a trait such as susceptibility to anger.

While it would be difficult to argue that anyone is completely free of physical drives, external stimulus, conditioning, or genetic inheritance, it is easy to argue that we retain a great deal of flexibility to deal with our immediate concerns.  Since people are indeed organized around pursuit and enjoyment of incentives, many actions and much inner experience are dependent on the factors that determine the incentives to which they commit.  These factors prominently include enduring characteristics of individuals, such as values, success expectancies, experience, and talents and competencies.  Enduring personal characteristics and concomitant goals have enormous bearing on how two individuals may view the same situation and react to it.  If free will did not exist to some sense, or at least a wide range of possibilities, all people would react in the same way to the same situation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow seemed to sense, that aside from the people with emotional limitations and problems, there were times when man was at his best. Although Maslow avoided the word “spiritual,” he did introduce psychology to truth, goodness, beauty, unity, transcendence, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, justice, order and simplicity. These values he called “B-values.”

In the late 1960’s Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchical theory of human needs. Maslow was a humanistic psychologist who believed that people are not controlled by mechanical forces (the stimuli and reinforcement forces of behaviorism) or unconscious instinctual impulses of psychoanalysis alone.

Maslow focused on human potential, believing that humans strive to reach the highest levels of their capabilities.

Some people reach higher levels of creativity, of consciousness and wisdom. Other psychologists as “fully functioning” or possessing a “healthy personality” labeled people at this level Maslow had a more appropriate term for these people “self-actualizing.”

Maslow set up a hierarchical theory of needs in which all the basic needs are at the bottom, and the needs concerned with man’s highest potential are at the top. The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization. Each level of the pyramid is dependent on the previous level. For example, a person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied.

  1. Biological / Physiological Needs. These needs are biological and consists of the needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. These needs are the strongest because if deprived, the person would die.
  2. Security / Safety Needs. Except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting) adults do not experience their security needs. Children, however often display signs of insecurity and their need to be safe.
  3. Social (Love, Affection and Belongingness) Needs. People have needs to escape feelings of loneliness and alienation and give (and receive) love, affection and the sense of belonging.
  4. Ego / Esteem Needs. People need a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others in order to feel satisfied, self confident and valuable. If these needs are not met, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless, and worthless.
  5. Self-actualization Fulfillment. Maslow describes self-actualization as an ongoing process. Self-actualizing people are, with one single exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin. The are devoted, work at something, something very precious to them–som calling or vocation, in the old sense, the priestly sense. When you select out for careful study very fine and healthy people, strong people, creative people, saintly people, sagacious people… you get a different view of mankind. You ask how tall can people grow, what can a human being become?

The people at each level in the hierarchy of needs seeks information on dealing with what is important to them.

  1. Coping -seeking information when lost, out of food, or sick
  2. Helping -seeking information on how to be safe such as food, shelter, emergency supplies
  3. Enlightening -seeking information on how to have a happier marriage, more friends
  4. Empowering -seeking information to help the ego
  5. Edifying -seeking moral and spiritual uplifting such is found with the word of God, spiritual music, and paintings

Once a person is self actualized, one is in a position to find their calling. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write. If these needs are not met, the person feels restlessness, on edge, tense, and lacking something. Lower needs may also produce a restless feeling, but here is it much easier to find the cause. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem the cause is apparent. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

Maslow believes that the only reason that people would not move through the needs to self-actualization is because of the hindrances placed in their way by society. For example, education can be a hindrance, or can promote personal growth. Maslow indicated that educational process could take some of the steps listed below to promote personal growth:

  1. We should teach people to be authentic; to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
  2. We should teach people to transcend their own cultural conditioning, and become world citizens.
  3. We should help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate, or destiny. This is especially focused upon finding the right career and the right mate.
  4. We should teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.
  5. We must accept the person and help him or her learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are there.
  6. We must see that the person’s basic needs are satisfied. That includes safety, belongingness and esteem needs.
  7. We should refreshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.
  8. We should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas .
  9. We should teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, of pain, suffering, and death.
  10. . We must teach people to be good choosers. They must be given practice in making choices, first between one goody and another; later between one god and another.


A. H. Maslow the Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Esalen Books, Viking Press
SBN 670-30853-6 hardbound, 670-00360-3 softbound

Abraham H. Maslow Toward a Psychology of Being, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1968
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 68-30757

Research on emotion in the Social Sciences

Research on emotion in the Social Sciences:

Because emotions are key to attributions for success, motivation, and goal-setting, we will be focusing on regularities in how they manifest. This is of interest because traditionally, emotions are considered to arise rather mysteriously, and be uncontrollable.  The first step to controlling emotion is to understand it.  Nico Fijdas is a social scientist whose work on emotional regularities (he refers to them as laws) is constantly cited.

Regularities give scientists and other perplexed and curious people a way to establish some ground rules for evaluating important emotional parameters such as intensity and perseverance. If you or a course participant is ever perplexed by an emotional reaction, you may benefit by running it through the following criteria for emotional response.

Previously, we have noted that meaningful, goal-oriented behaviors are sourced in emotion.  We may also say that emotions appear to arise from the meaning placed upon the situation.  For example, events that satisfy your goals, or promise to do so, yield positive emotions.  Graduating from college may satisfy both the proximate goal of obtaining a diploma, the intermediate goal of obtaining interesting and lucrative work, and finally, the ultimate goal of supporting a comfortable life for you members of your family.

This leads to the observation that emotions arise in response to events that are important to your goals, motives, or concerns.  If you are feeling an emotion, you may be sure that it is related to an area of concern.

Emotions are elicited by events appraised as real, and emotional intensity will correspond to the degree of “realness”. For instance, you hear that there is trouble in the Middle East. This is business as usual for people who do not concern you. However, if your parents are traveling in Israel, you are in front of CNN broadcasts for the duration of their stay. This regularity is even more interesting if you have  a vivid imagination.  Imagination is thought to be a way to transform reasoning or symbolic logic into much more motivating emotional stimulation.  Motivational visualization will work well for people who are able to imagine an event in detail.

Emotions are elicited not so much by the presence of favorable or unfavorable conditions, but by actual or expected changes in those conditions.  The greater the change, the more intense the emotional reaction. We will be over the moon when our bottom-ranked team wins the big one because no one expected that much difference in performance. .A friend turns into a jerk after financial success- the change for the better is as hard to deal with as a bankruptcy.  Your frame of reference  determines what counts as an emotional event and what response is possible. This becomes clear when we watch people who feel that they should cope with difficult circumstances suffer when they cannot cope. I stress this because general feelings of control are key to coping with the stress of constant or drastic change.

Emotions are conservative.  Emotional events retain their power to elicit emotions indefinitely,  unless repeated unto boredom and indifference.  Think of people in war zones who appear indifferent to acts of extreme violence as a result of being constantly exposed to horrific events. However, unless you get used to a certain class of repeated change, you will react to that emotional event indefinitely.  If you don’t work to establish more positve meaning for traumatic events, you might be doomed to experience it afresh every time a present stimulus evokes it.

This sort of work keeps therapists and clergy in business. There is a lot of scoffing at unresolved childhood trauma, but there is ample evidence that what goes unresolved in your family of origin  affects you in relationships which evoke similar response.  Traumatic events may not be erased, but they may be overwritten.  Behaviors which you seem doomed to repeat, in spite of unfavourable results, are wonderful places to begin the process of assessing and reevaluating.


Our emotions tend to be “absolutes” relative to individual meaning structures, not necessarily corresponding to reality!  How many times have we counseled a friend (or ourselves) not to act on an emotional surety before checking out facts and alternatives?  For instance, a child is certain that the teacher is out to “get him”.  We arrange a meeting, and find that the teacher has a very high opinion of the child’s talents, and is pushing them towards goals higher than those set for the rest of the class.  In mediation, for instance, we often stop a mediation in which the people are at absolute loggerheads  with each other and ask them to undertake a fact-finding mission before resuming the mediation.  Armed with real information, participants may come back ready to make some concessions to more objective criteria for reality, such as law, custom, or industry standards.  This moderating effect leads to

7/  Every emotional impulse can be modified by the emotional effect of consequences.  You spoke harshly to a child, and he cried.  This caused some reflection on whether you had been too angry over a minor infraction, and whether you need to exert control over your reactions to his behavior.  Control is an inextricable part of emotional response.  Completely uninhibited response  can be dangerous unless sanctioned.  People in crowds or groups that sanction uninhibited response easily lose such control.  Think of the stands in a pro-wrestling match, or a “rave” dance happening.

8/  Lastly, we tend to place an emotional interpretation on events that gives us the lightest load to bear and the greatest emotional gain.  For instance, we have an argument.  The other person is not only wrong, but obviously more stupid than oneself.  It takes a very powerful argument to persuade one that one is wrong and possibly even ignorant!  We resist feeling badly.  Different emotions can produce different gains.  Anger intimidates and produces “agreement”.  Fearfulness prevents one from taking risks.  Grief provides excuses, demands the right to be treated with consideration, and calls for help (think of a child who broke their toy, cries inconsolably, and brightens only when Dad promises a new and better one).

Positive Power of Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is often an uncomfortable and onerous experience, but it is a critical element to long-term success. Without it, we have no way to measure how we are doing or if we are headed in the right direction. Appreciating the value of feedback is an important first step in harnessing its power.

Intention is key: feedback should be given in order to help, not hurt. Too often, people give feedback to make themselves feel better, with little regard for the impact it has on the recipient. When on the receiving end, it is far more useful to view the feedback as important information that creates opportunities for improvement rather than criticism meant to hurt.

Focus the feedback on the behavior instead of on the person. This goes a long way in creating that positive intention. It is crucial that feedback is directed toward behavior the receiver can do something about, as opposed to events or circumstances beyond their control.

Well-timed feedback is the best kind of feedback. It is most useful at the earliest appropriate opportunity after the behavior you want to address has been demonstrated. Positive feedback given in front of a group to acknowledge someone’s performance is a great idea. Not so when offering constructive feedback of a sensitive nature that is far better suited to the privacy of closed doors.

Some other important elements of giving feedback: Establish rapport and some level of trust. Focus on a positive aspect before giving more constructive feedback. Stress their goals.  Let them know how they would benefit from change. Ask for permission to give them feedback. Be specific and be brief.

Background Information

Humans universally express emotion.  Emotions are evident in human children from infancy, while our more sophisticated logical operations are long in forming.  Logical functions such as moral reasoning and abstract mathematical thinking often wait till after puberty to fully develop, and we are are highly dependent on others to teach us these skills.  A mark of maturity is the ability to make a large range of reasoned and appropriate responses, not just emotional ones.  Still, many of us are aware that even the most strategic decisions may rest on an emotional response to a person or a situation.

Nico Fridja is a psychologist who focuses on emotions as adaptive responses, or reactions to events that have consistently been important parts of a human environment. He believes that emotions generate action tendencies, and that action tendencies are our ability to appraise and respond to specific situations.   Some situational responses may be hard-wired: e.g. a fearful fight or flight response to a threat such as an angry dog or speeding automobile.  Some are not as hard-wired, allowing for a more subtle range of response.  For instance, in a social situation where someone appears to insult you, your response can range from physical retaliation (potentially expensive or fatal behavior; increases emotional intensity), to a polite inquiry as to the source of the problem (allows for a much wider range of options; reduces emotional intensity).   Developing a wide and appropriate range of response to other humans is important to us, and a life-long learning process as we adapt to different people and places.  Humans who cannot respond appropriately to subtle cues from other people are considered so damaged or dangerous that we isolate and ostracize people who cannot or will not “act normally”, as in the case of the mentally ill or criminal.

As early as 1844, William James speculated that emotions and body are inextricably entwined.  You can change an emotional state, in many circumstances, simply by changing physical posture or expression. This course will use physical activities such as role-playing, songs, and games to alter people’s emotional perceptions of a situation.  Presentation feedback will help clarify and refine your ability to effectively communicate context and content. Increasing emotional awareness and getting realistic feedback from team members and coaches enhances our ability to deal creatively with any problem. But does a physical expression of an emotion really change anything?

In 1983, Ekman, Levenson, and Friesen studied the effect of different facial expressions on such bodily indices as heart rate and blood flow to the extremities. They found some significant differences in the way that the body responds to an emotional state, even an “acted” one. For instance, facial expressions of fear, anger, and happiness all produced increases in heart rate, but the expressions for fear and anger produced much larger differences than the rate for happiness.  The expression for disgust, on the other hand, produced a greatly reduced heart rate.

Imagine what it does when we ask for whole body participation!  Acting out the emotions of other people allows us to feel empathy for them. Empathy allows us to see their point of view, and communicate directly to their interests.  The best ideas can be difficult to communicate if you cannot get on the proper wavelength, and we communicate a great deal of information physically.   A good actor can embody a character by skillfully evoking their physical characteristics and movement mannerisms, without a word being said.

When we tell stories we will be asked to get up and gesture because it provides important emotional information that may enhance or detract from your message.

Role-playing allows the mind-body connection to become a conscious part of our communication as we practice.  Many of us have tried sports or dance and realize that skill only comes with effort allied with desire for improvement.  We can train our bodies to flow into a stance of relaxation and confidence, and our minds will follow. As we incorporate a new emotional stance into our awareness (e.g., I now feel able to cope more calmly with new situations when I step back, smile, and breathe), we often increase our self-esteem.  Increased self-esteem enhances our ability to approach new tasks and persevere to a successful endpoint.  In a learning economy, this is a valuable commodity